Friday, 31 December 2010

Some Thoughts on Travel Chaos

Last week, while travelling back to Ireland to visit family for Christmas, I found myself caught up in what the newspapers called "Travel Chaos". Because of heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures a number of airports came to a standstill. This left many passengers stranded in airports, far from where they would have liked to have been.

During attempt number two to travel to Ireland I found myself spending the day in Heathrow airport, which meant I was able to get a first hand glimpse of this "Travel Chaos". It was interesting to note people's reactions to not being able to travel where they would wish.

One of the most common responses was summed up by a woman standing next to me in a queue at the 'Aer Lingus' helpdesk. "I just feel so helpless", she said. This was the response of many, a feeling of being completely out of control and unable to do anything about their situation. For some, this led to them getting angry with the airline and its workers. I sympathised with the woman, and agreed that it was not nice to be feeling helpless to do anything about our situation.

However, as I walked away from the helpdesk I also began to wonder whether this feeling of helplessness was such a bad thing. This sense of powerlessness that was experienced by countless fellow travellers is a reminder of something important. It is a reminder that God is God and we are not. This is something that we all need to recognise.

This may sound obvious, but it is something that we as humans desperately try to ignore. This is because we like to put ourselves in the place of God. We do not want Him ruling over us, we want to set ourselves up as rulers. We want to live as if we were God, calling the shots and doing things the way we want to.

But this bubble is burst when we realise that there are things in this world that we are completely unable to control. We can do nothing about the weather, we have no power to change it. The heavy snow and freezing temperatures that brought airports to a standstill reminds us just how weak we really are. It reminds us that we are not God, and we do not have the power to rule in His place. It is simply impossible for us. He alone has such power, He alone is in complete control over the weather (Job 38:22-24; Mark 4:35-41), and over all things which He has made. Before Him we stand helpless. He can effortlessly bring to nothing the plans and schemes of human beings. He is God and we are not.

This means that it is utterly foolish for us to think that we can rebel against Him and expect to win. We simply do not have the power. God is the Creator who is in absolute control over the whole of His creation. We are creatures who are utterly dependant upon Him for all things. The fact that our Christmas travel plans are frustrated by bad weather is a gracious reminder of this and ought to bring us to recognise our rightful place before God and give Him the honour He is due. We can try and rebel and overthrow His rule through Jesus (Psalm 2:1-3), yet God finds this laughable (Psalm 2:4) because it is ridiculous to think that the creation can fight against the Creator and win! Therefore, the wise thing to do is to submit to God's rule through His Son, the Lord Jesus (Psalm 2:10-12).

So next time we make travel plans let us make it an opportunity to remember our rightful place, that God is God and we are not. As we make plans, let us learn say with James "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:15).

Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Dangers and Blessings of Reading the Bible in a Year

One of the most popular and most versatile plans to read through the Bible in a year was prepared by the Scottish pastor Robert Murray M'Cheyne in 1842. It consists of four readings a day from different parts of Scripture which bring the reader through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a year. It can also be adapted so that you read through the Bible over the course of two years. You can view the plan online here, or order a copy here.

When M'Cheyne gave the plan to his congregation it came with an introduction which outlined the dangers and advantages of reading through the Bible in a year, and some practical directions for doing so. This is a very helpful introduction and it is well worth taking the time to read through before embarking on a Bible in a year reading plan, or to whet our appetite to undertake such a plan.

I have taken the body of what M'Cheyne wrote to his congregation and have edited it to make it slightly easier to read for a modern audience. What follows is my re-wording of M'Cheyne's introduction. I have tried to keep as close to M'Cheyne's original words as possible, and to retain his imagery. Where the words, phrases or word order have become outdated I have tried to render them in a modern equivalent. So here it is, Robert Murray M'Cheyne's introduction to reading the Bible in a year:

Dangers

1) Formality – We are such weak creatures that any regular practice easily degenerates into a lifeless form. For some people, the tendency of reading the Bible in a fixed manner can create such skeleton Christianity. A characteristic sin of the last days is that people will have the appearance of godliness but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5). Guard against this. Let the plan perish instead of letting this rust eat up your souls.

2) Self-righteousness – Some people, when they have devoted their set time to reading the Bible, and finished reading the portion assigned for that day, may be tempted to look at themselves with self-complacency. I am persuaded that there are many who are living without a divine work on their soul (unpardoned and unsanctified, and ready to perish) who diligently spend set times in both personal and family devotions. This is going to hell with a lie in the right hand.

3) Careless reading – There are few who tremble at the word of God. There are few who, in reading Scripture, recognise the voice of God, which is full of majesty. Some, because they have such a large portion to read every day, may be tempted to become weary of it, as Israel did of the daily manna, saying “Our soul loathes this light bread!”, and therefore they read it in a light and careless way. This would be fearfully provoking to God. Beware, take care that this word is not true of you: “You also said, ‘Behold, what a weariness this is!’ and you have snuffed, says the Lord of hosts.”

4) A yoke too heavy to bear – Some people may begin reading with enthusiasm for a time, and then it may later feel like a burden that is heavy to bear. They may find their conscience dragging them through the set task without relishing the heavenly food. If you find this to be the case, throw away the chains, and feed freely in the sweet garden of God. I do not desire to put a snare upon you, but to be a helper of your joy.

If there are so many dangers in such a Bible reading plan, why suggest such a plan at all? In answer to this I say the best things are accompanied with danger, just as the most beautiful flowers are often gathered from the clefts of a dangerous precipice. Therefore, let us also weigh up the advantages.

Advantages

1) The whole Bible will be read through in an ordered way in the course of a year – The Old Testament will be read through once, and the New Testament and Psalms twice. I fear that many of you have never read the whole Bible; yet all of it is equally divine: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man o God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If we ignore some parts of Scripture we shall be incomplete Christians.

2) Time will not be wasted in choosing what portions to read – Often believers are unable to work out which part of the mountains of spices they should direct their steps towards. This question is solved at once in a very simple manner by this Bible reading plan.

3) Parents will have a regular subject upon which to examine their children – Family devotions ought to be much more instructive than they generally are. Merely reading a chapter of the Bible is often too much like water spilt on the ground. Instead, let the day’s portion of the Bible be read by every member of the family beforehand, and then draw out the meaning and application of the passage by question and answer. This Bible reading plan will be helpful for this.

It also means that when friends meet together, they have something edifying to talk about from the portions of Scripture they have been reading that day. It also means that younger Christians can also ask more mature Christians about the meaning of difficult passages, and the fragrance of simpler passages spread further.

4) The pastor will know in what part of the pasture the flock are feeding – This will enable him to speak more suitably to them on a Sunday, and to drop a word of light and comfort when he visits them from house to house, which will be more readily responded to.

5) The sweet bond of Christian love and unity will be strengthened – We will be often reminded of our dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, both here and elsewhere, who join with us in reading these portions of Scripture. We shall more often be led to agree on earth, about something we shall ask of God. We shall pray over the same promises, mourn over the same confessions, praise God in the same songs, and be nourished by the same words of eternal life.

Directions

1) The first two columns contain the passages to be read with the family. The last two columns contain the passages to be read in private. (M’Cheyne’s Bible reading plan contained four columns of readings for each day).

2) The head of the family ought to read the passage for family devotions beforehand and note the key verses, and spend some time upon them with the family asking a few simple questions.

3) Sometimes the passage for family reading might be more suitable for personal reading. If this is the case, the head of the family ought to switch the readings so that the passage for personal reading that day may be read with the family, and the passage for family reading be read in private.

4) The Psalms ought to be worked through with the family at least once in the course of a year. (M’Cheyne here recommends that the family sing through the Psalter in a metrical version of the Psalms, which had been written for such a purpose, and was widely used in the Scottish church at that time).

5) Let the conversation at family meals often be focused upon the passage read or the Psalm. Thus every meal will be edifying, sanctified by the word and prayer.

6) Let our personal Bible reading happen first thing in the morning. Let God’s voice be the first we hear in the morning. Note the key verses and pray through every line and word of them. If you mark your Bible, let it be neatly done, so as to never abuse a copy of the Bible.

7) When you meet other believers in the street or elsewhere, speak about the passages read that day, as often as you have the opportunity. This will be a blessed alternative to those idle words which waste the soul and grieve the Holy Spirit of God. If you are writing letters (or emailing or on the phone etc.) make use of what you have gathered from Scripture that day.

8) Above all, use the word as a lamp to your feet and a light to your path – your guide in perplexity, your armour in temptation, your food in times of faintness. Hear the constant cry of Jesus, the One who Intercedes for us: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17).

[The copy of M'Cheyne's introduction I have worked from can be found in Andrew Bonar's book Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M'Cheyne published by Banner of Truth.]

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Reading the Bible in a Year or Two

It is about this time of year that many of us start making plans to read through the Bible in a year. Over at the Gospel Coalition blog Stephen Witmer has posted a very helpful little piece on a two year Bible reading plan that he prepared for his church. It has some good pointers for those of us thinking of embarking on reading through the Bible over the next year (or two).

Witmer begins by quoting these words from Scottish pastor Robert Murray M'Cheyne, who was writing to his flock about a scheme he had prepared for his church to read through the whole of Scripture in a year:
MY DEAR FLOCK,—The approach of another year stirs up within me new desires for your salvation, and for the growth of those of you who are saved. “God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” What the coming year is to bring forth, who can tell? . . . Those believers will stand firmest who have no dependence upon self or upon creatures, but upon Jehovah our Righteousness. We must be driven more to our Bibles, and to the mercy-seat, if we are to stand in the evil day. Then we shall be able to say like David—, “The proud have had me greatly in derision, yet have I not declined from thy law.” “Princes have persecuted me without a cause, but my heart standeth in awe of thy Word.” It has long been in my mind to prepare a scheme of Scripture reading, in which as many as were made willing by God might agree, so that the whole Bible might be read once by you in the year, and all might be feeding in the same portion of the green pasture at the same time.
Witmer's article can be read in full by clicking here, where you can also download a copy of his Bible reading plan.

Questions: Hasn't Science Disproved God?

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Tuesday Teaching: Don't Waste Your Life (Part 4)

We come to the fourth and final talk in the current series of Tuesday Teaching posts from John Piper, "Don't Waste Your Life". Tune in next week for a new series.

Monday, 27 December 2010

"Meat indeed and drink indeed"

What is it that will sustain us as Christians? What is it that will keep our souls from withering? The answer is simple, yet is something that we easily overlook. It is the prayerful and dilligent reading of the Bible. Nothing can replace this. This is something that the great evangelist George Whitefield discovered at his conversion. Here is what he said in his own words.
Above all my mind being now more opened and enlarged, I began to read the holy Scriptures upon my knees, laying aside all other books, and praying over, if possible, every line and word. This proved meat indeed and drink indeed to my soul. I daily received fresh life, light, and power from above. I got more true knowledge from reading the book of God in one month than I could ever have acquired from all the writings of men.
Therefore, let us not run after the latest fad or book about spiritual growth. Instead let us give ourselves to the prayerful and dilligent reading of the Scriptures.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Have a Christ-Exalting Christmas

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

Wishing all our readers a Christ-exalting Christmas from both of us here at Above Every Name. Have a great time rejoicing in our glorious Saviour.
 
 

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

"I should have died with gratitude and joy"

William Cowper, the poet, battled for the whole of his life with severe depression and mental breakdown. His despair was so severe that he came close to comitting suicide. He spoke of being struck with "such a dejection of spirits, as none but they who have felt the same, can have the least conception of. Day and night I was upon the rack, lying down in horror, and rising up in despair."

His condition became so bad that he was comitted to St. Albans Insane Assylum. In God's providence the doctor who tended him there was a Christian man. This doctor loved Cowper and continually held out hope to Cowper, despite Cowper's insistence that he was beyond hope. It is through the influence of this doctor that Cowper was converted, and found the gospel to be the thing that would sustain him through his ongoing depression, which he would battle with for the rest of his life.

Whilst staying at the assylum he opened a Bible and discovered Romans 3:25, "whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins." Here is how Cowper describes the moment:
Immediately I received the strength to believe it, and the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency of the atonement He had made, my pardon sealed in His blood, and all the fullness and completeness of His justification. In a moment I believed, and received the gospel ... Whatever my friend Madan had said to me, long before, revived in all its clearness, with demonstration of the spirit and power. Unless the Almighty arm had been under me, I think I should have died with gratitude and joy. My eyes filled with tears, and my voice choked with transport; I could only look up to heaven in silent fear, overwhelmed with love and wonder.
(Gilbert Thomas, William Cowper and the Eighteenth Century, p. 132.)

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Santichrist

Have you ever noticed how different the message of Santa Claus is from that of Jesus? They are worlds apart. The gospel of Santa Claus and the gospel of Jesus Christ give us two very different Christmasses:

The Santa Claus Gospel
The message of Santa Claus is essentially this: if you are good you shall be rewarded, if you are not you won't, you will be punished. Therefore, what you need to do is to work hard at being good to recieve your reward, it is all up to you.The gifts that he gives need to be earned.

The well known Christmas song Santa Claus is Coming to Town shows us this. The first verse tells us:
You better watch out,
You better not cry,
Better not pout,
I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town.
In other words, "you'd better get your act together and be good because Santa Claus is coming." The next verse tells us why it is so important that we do this:
He's making a list,
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out
Who's naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town.
You need to be good because Santa is making a list of who's been good and who's been bad, who's been naughty and who's been nice. So, you'd better make sure you end up in the right list. It's all up to us and our hard work. This is why the third verse exhorts us:
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!
"Be good", this is essentially the 'gospel' of Santa Claus. However, this is not good news at all. None of us can be good, we all come to Christmas as sinners. All of us "have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and even the good things that we do are like filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). We are incapable of being "good for goodness sake!" The gospel of Santa Claus is bad news for us, it does not give us any hope.

What type of people do we become if we hold to the Santa Claus gospel? It can create two types of people. On the one hand it can produce people who think that by their own efforts they are good enough. This leads to pride, arroagance and looking down on others. On the other hand, it can produce utter despair, when people recognise the truth that they're not good enough. They cannot "be good for goodness sake", therefore there is no hope held out for them in the Santa Claus gospel.

If we let the Santa Claus gospel shape our Christmas it does not lead to a very merry Christmas. However, this is not the case with Jesus.

The Jesus Christ Gospel
The message of the Bible is very different to what Santa Claus has to offer. It gives great hope to those who know that they can never be good enough. The God of the Bible is one who justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5). That is, He declares sinful men and women, who have fallen short of His glory and deserve His punishment, to be in right standing before Him. In the words of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, He declares those who are naughty to be nice. He no longer counts their sins against them (Romans 4:7-8), and thus they can look forward to a future, not of punishment, but of enjoying the glorious blessing of being in His prescence for all eternity in a completely renewed world. This is good news!

Sinful men and women are declared to be in right standing before God, not on the basis if how hard they've tried to be good, but by the grace of God alone, shown at the cross of Christ. Jesus was "put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be recieved by faith." (Romans 3:25). That is, He is a sacrifice that turns aside God's wrath, His just anger at sin. At the cross Jesus bore the just punishment of God in the place of sinners. The just anger of God fell on Jesus instead of those who've sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), so that all who trust Him would never face that punishment, but instead know that great blessing of being counted as righteous in God's sight, no longer having their sin standing against them (Romans 4:6-8).

This is the complete opposite of the Santa Claus gospel. The Santa Claus gospel tells us that we need to work in order to earn our 'gift' (which no longer makes it a gift - Romans 4:4). However, the message of the Bible is that we recieve this gift of righteousness from God simply by trusting Him who justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5). This means it is truly a gift, it is not something we must earn. Indeed, we cannot earn it, we've already seen that we can never be good enough to earn God's favour, we've already trampled His glory into the dirt by our rejecting of His good rule over us, and all we've earnt is death (Romans 6:23). But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23).

This produces a very different type of people than the Santa Claus gospel does. If we hold to the good news of Jesus it shapes us to be a humble people. We no longer have any grounds for boasting, it is excluded (Romans 3:27). We are all alike on a level playing field. All of us our guilty and deserve death for our rebellion. All are declared to be in right standing with God, not on the basis of our works, but on the basis of Christ's work on our behalf. It is all of grace. The gospel also produces a people who are joyful and confident, not despairing. We can have great confidence in the face of the future, because we have been justified, and this depends on God's work not ours. Because it is all of His work in Christ Jesus, He shall never forsake us (Romans 8:31-39), nothing can seperate us from the love He has shown us in Christ if we are His. We instead have the joyful and sure hope of glory. This is good news.

So, which gospel is going to shape your Christmas? Only one of them is truly a gospel, because only one of them truly gives us good news. Only one of them, if we let it shape our Christmas, will give us a truly merry Christmas.

Tuesday Teaching: Don't Waste Your Life (Part 3)

We come now to the third talk in this series from John Piper, "Don't Waste Your Life."

Thursday, 16 December 2010

A Wonderful Exchange

At the heart of the gospel is the glorious truth of a great exchange. Writing to the Christians in Corinth, Paul says: "For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21). As those who are in Christ, our sin has been counted to Christ and He has taken its punishment at the cross, and His righteousness has been counted to us so that we stand before God perfectly justified. The reformer Martin Luther describes this exchange in these words:
This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them. Learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to pray to him and, despairing of yourself, say, ‘Thou, Lord Jesus, art my righteousness, but I am thy sin. Thou hast taken upon thyself what is mine and hast given to me what is thine. Thou hast taken upon thyself what thou wast not and hast given to me what I was not.’”
(Martin Luther, quoted in J. I. Packer and Mark Dever, In My Place Condemned He Stood.)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

"The only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied"

What is it that truly delights you? What is it that you take pleasure in? We delight in things and seek to enjoy them because we are looking for satisfaction in them. However, Jonathan Edwards recognised that there was only one thing which which we can be truly satisfied, to look for satisfaction anywhere else is futile:
The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean. (Jonathan Edwards Works, II, 244).
If we are seeking satisfaction anywhere else it is both futile and dishonouring to God. The prophet Jeremiah speaks about this in this way: "my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, brken cisterns that can hold no water." (Jeremiah 2:13). To turn from the spring of living water to broken cisterns is both foolish and sinful. It is a rejection of the all-sufficiency and all-satisfying nature of Christ, and seeking satisfaction in other things which can never satisfy, but will only leave us thirsting more.

This is idolatory. Idolatory is seeking satisfaction in anything else besides God. It is seeking what only Christ can provide from something other than Him. It is delighting and seeking to find our enjoyment in anything above Him. This is both stupid and sinful.

So what are you delighting in today? Let us be those who, by God's grace, drink deeply from this fountain and no other.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Sufficient

"If God would only do a miracle, then I'd believe." How often do we hear words similar to these from non-Christian friends, family members or contacts? For many people they excuse themselves from taking seriously the truths of the gospel, by saying they need something more to convince them. If only they could see something miraculous, then they'd believe in the gospel. However, such an argument is not convincing.

In Luke 16, Jesus says that if they refuse to listen to the Bible, then even if they see something miraculous they will not be convinced. Jesus is addressing the Pharisees, who were lovers of money (Luke 16:14). In verses 19-31 he gives them a shocking warning in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man dies and is in torment in Hades (verse 22-23), upon finding himself in this irreversible torment (verses 25-26) he longs that his brothers be warned so that they might repent before they face the same (verses 27-28). The answer comes back "They have Moses and the prophets [i.e. the Scriptures]; let them hear them." (verse 29). Lazarus insists: "No,...but if someone goes to them fro the dead, they will repent." (verse 30). To which Abraham replies "If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead." (verse 31).

The Bible is sufficient for belief. We do not need anything else to convince us and to bring us to repentance. J. C. Ryle has these helpful and challenging words to say on this in his 'Expository Thoughts' on Luke:
The Scriptures contain all that we need to know in order to be saved, and a messenger from the world beyond the grave could add nothing to them. It is not more evidence that is wanted in order to make men repent, but more heart and will to make use of what they already know. The dead could tell us nothing more than the Bible contains, it they rose from their graves to instruct us. After the first novelty of their testimony was worn away, we should care no more for their words than the words of any other. This wretched waiting for something which we have not, and neglect of what we have, is the ruin of thousands of souls. Faith, simple faith in the Scriptures which we already posess, is the first thing needful to salvation. The man who has the Bible, and can read it, and yet waits for more evidence before he becomes a decided Christian, is decieving himself. Except he awakens from his delusion he will die in his sins.
Taken from 'Expository Thoughts on Luke'.

Tuesday Teaching: Don't Waste Your Life (Part 2)

We come to the second part of John Piper's series "Don't Waste Your Life". Enjoy.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Don't Assume the Gospel

What is it that excites you? What is it that excites you corporately as a church? What it is that we rejoice in and celebrate as a church shows where our priorities lie. Therefore, we must ensure that the gospel is what we are constantly rejoicing in, both individually and corporately. We never move on from the gospel. Therefore, we must never cease to let it be the centre of what we delight in. If we do not do so we begin to assume the gospel, which in turn leads to being not far from throwing out the gospel altogether. Don Carson has some helpful words of warning on this:
I have been teaching more decades now that I can count and if I have learned anything from all of this teaching, its this: my students . . . learn what I’m excited about. So within the church of the living God, we must become excited about the gospel. That’s how we pass on our heritage. If, instead, the gospel increasingly becomes for us that which we assume, then we will, of course, assent to the correct creedal statement. But, at this point, the gospel is not what really captures us. Rather, is a particular form of worship or a particular style of counseling, or a particular view on culture, or a particular technique in preaching, or—fill in the blank. Then, ultimately, our students make that their center and the generation after us loses the gospel. As soon as you get to the place where the gospel is that which is nearly assumed, you are only a generation and a half from death.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

God's Wisdom Displayed in the Cross

The cross is the blazing centre of the revelation of the wisdom and glory of God. Listen to these words from Jonathan Edwards as he describes how the wisdom of God is revealed in the seeming paradoxes of the cross:
How astonishing is it that a person who is blessed forever and is infinitely and essentially happy should endure the greatest sufferings that ever were endured on earth! That a person who is the supreme Lord and Judge of the world should be arraigned and should stand at the judgment seat of mortal worms and then be condemned. That a person who is the living God and the fountain of life should be put to death. That a person who created the world and gives life to all his creatures should be put to death by his own creatures. That a person of infinite majesty and glory, and so the object of the love, praises and adoration of angels, should be mocked and spit upon by the vilest of men. That a person infinitely good and who is love itself should suffer the greatest cruelty. That person who is infinitely beloved of the Father should be put to inexpressible anguish under his own Father’s wrath. That he who is the King of heaven, who has heaven for his throne and earth for his footstool, should be buried in the prison of the grave. How wonderful is this! And yet this is the way that God’s wisdom has fixed upon as the way of sinners’ salvation, as neither unsuitable nor dishonorable to Christ.

Jonathan Edwards, “The Wisdom of God Displayed in the Way of Salvation,” in Works (Edinburgh, 1979), II:144.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Rich Abundance

In Luke 14 Jesus uses the image of a banquet to describe the kingdom. The offer of the gospel is an offer to come and feast at a rich and abundant banquet. Here's what J. C. Ryle has to say, commenting on verses 15-24, on why the offer of the gospel is likened to an invitation to a banquet:
The Gospel contains a full supply of everything that sinners need in order to be saved. We are all naturally starving, empty, helpless, and ready to perish. Forgiveness of all sin, and peace with God, - justification of the person, and sanctification of the heart, - grace by the way, and glory in the end, - are the gracious provision which God has prepared for the wants of our souls. There is nothing that sin-laden hearts can wish, or weary consciences require, which is not spread before men in rich abundance in Christ.
Taken from J. C. Ryle's  'Expository Thoughts on Luke'.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Q & A With Don Carson

Tuesday Teaching: Don't Waste Your Life (Part 1)

In order to encourage Christ-exalting thinking and living we post, once a week, video of great Bible teaching from various preachers. God has given His church the gifts of some great teachers, and many of these resources are avaliable free on the internet - well worth making the most of. It is very important that we understand that the primary place we should be fed from the Bible is in our local church under the faithful week in week out preaching of our own pastor, who knows us, and sourrounded by our brothers and sisters to hold us accountable and encourage us to live out these truths. No internet resources can replace this. Yet God has also provided the worldwide church with the resources of other godly pastors which we can access throught the internet, and these can be a great way to continue to spur us on to gospel centred thinking and living.

This next series of Tuesday Teaching posts is a series of talks by John Piper at a 'Desiring God' conference in 2008 called 'Don't Waste Your Life'. Here is the first talk in the series:

Monday, 6 December 2010

You May Not Understand Your Own Experience

Why does God allow us to go through dark and horriffic experiences? What do we do when we have spent, days, weeks, months or even years in darkness and desponancy? What is the purposes of God in these times? One of the many reasons that our utterly sovereign God, in His goodness, ordains such times for us is so that we may more faithfully minister to others. This is what Charles Spurgeon, who suffered terribly from depression and many other pains, recognised and saw bearing great fruit in his ministry to the glory of God:
One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, 'My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?' and though I did not say so, yet I preached my own experience. I heard my own chains clank while I tried to preach to my fellow-prisoners in the dark; but I could not tell why I was brought into such an awful horror of darkness, for which I condemned myself. On the following Monday evening, a man came to see me who bore all the marks of despair upon his countenance. His hair seemed to stand up right, and his eyes were ready to start from their sockets. He said to me, after a little parleying, 'I never before, in my life, heard any man speak who seemed to know my heart. Mine is a terrible case; but on Sunday morning you painted me to the life, and preached as if you had been inside my soul.' By God's grace I saved that man from suicide, and led him into gospel light and liberty; but I know I could not have done it if I had not myself been confined in the dungeon in which he lay. I tell you the story, brethren, because you sometimes may not understand your own experience, and the perfect people may condemn you for having it; but what know they of God's servants? You and I have to suffer much for the sake of the people of our charge ... You may be in Egyptian darkness, and you may wonder why such a horror chills your marrow; but you may be altogether in the pursuit of your calling, and be led of the Spirit to a position of sympathy with desponding minds.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Hymn: And Can It Be

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself in all His love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

by Charles Wesley

Thursday, 2 December 2010

"Attaining the knowledge of the mind of God in the Scripture"

In a previous post we saw our need to be sweating over the text in dilligent study as we seek to understand and apply Scripture. However, we must not neglect our need to also be sweating over the text in prayer. If we are merely working hard with the text and neglecting to wrestle with God in prayer that He might open our eyes to see the glorious truths of His word then we cannot expect to understand it. This is what John Owen recognised. Listen to these words: 
I suppose ... this may be fixed on as a common principle of Christianity; namely, that constant and fervent prayer for the divine assistance of the Holy Spirit, is such an indispensable means for ... attaining the knowledge of the mind of God in the Scripture, as that without it all others will not [avail]. (Works, IV, p. 203.)


Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Battles Singles Face (Part 3): Perceptions and Expectations of Others

After a bit of a break we come to part three of our 'Battles Singles Face' series. In our last post we looked at how the gospel is the answer to the issue of loneliness. Now we come to a second battle that single men and women face: the perceptions and expectations of other people. How ought we to apply the gospel in this battle?

Very often one of the hardest challenges of being single is dealing with what others expect from us, or how they view us. The older we get the harder this can become. Family members and friends can send questions our way enquiring as to whether we have thought about "settling down" and getting married? Well meaning inquirers can ask whether we have "found someone" yet? Underlying these questions is the assumption that marriage is the norm and anything outside that is somewhat abnormal. Others can expect that we will get married, and begin to ask questions about whether all is well with us if we're not moving in that direction.

We then grow concerned about what others think of us, are they beginning to wonder whether there is something wrong with us? Are people questioning my social abilities or sexual orientation because I'm still single? Many families have that uncle or aunt who has never married, and about whom there is the unspoken questions about whether they're a bit different to the rest of the family. Will we be seen as that slightly odd aunt or uncle in our family in years to come?

So how does the gospel provide the answer to such battles? There are two things that we need to remember and hold fast to:

1) Remember that Your Identity is Found in Christ
As a Christian our identity is not defined by our marital status, it is defined by Jesus. If we are a Christian then we are in Christ, united to him by faith. It is this relationship that gives us our true identity.

Knowing Christ is all-sufficient. If we have Him we have everything. We do not need to look to another relationship for acceptance, we have ultimate acceptance in Him. Paul says: "For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (Philippians 3:8-9). Paul counts all things as a load of rubbish compared to knowing Christ. Why? Because it is only by being found in Christ (that is, being united to Him by faith) that he has righteousness. In Christ he is counted as righteous before God. In Christ he has a righteousness that is not his own, he has Christ's righteousness counted to him simply by trusting Jesus. This means that he stands fully accepted before God. His sin has been counted to Jesus, and its punishment has been bourne by Jesus on the cross; Christ's perfect record has been counted to him, and he now stands before God fully accepted, not fearing any condemnation.

If we are those who have laid hold of Jesus by faith the same is true of us. We too are counted righteous in Christ. We have a new identity. No longer are we those who are "childeren of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3), under the just anger of God. We are now counted as His children, fully accepted in His sight, because of the perfect righteousness of Jesus counted to us through faith, and posessing every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). What more could we possibly wish for?

Therefore, when we find ourselves beginning to grow concerned about what others may think of us, let us preach the gospel of justification by faith to ourselves again. Our identity is found in Christ, this is an identity which shall never change, and can never be taken from us. Remember the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, of being found in Him, with His righteousness counted to us.

2) Remember to Fear God Not Man
Fearing others does not necessarily mean that we cower in terror before other people. When we grow concerned about what others think and seek their acceptance, this is the fear of man. When we worry that others will think bady of us or will reject us, this is the fear of man. When we do this, we allow the perceptions and expectations of others to control us. We become enslaved to them, and they become our masters insead of Jesus. We allow other people to hold more authority over us than God does, in a sense they become our gods in the place of God.

When this happens we find ourselves continually anxious about whether we're living up to the expectations of others, and fearful of the consequences if we don't. We find our whole lives shaped around trying to live up to their expectations and shape ourselves into what we think will please them.

The Bible's solution to this fear of others is to nurture a healthy fear of God. Indeed, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:17), a wise life is one that is founded on the fear of God, not one that is enslaved by the fear of others. Jesus gives us this strategy in Luke 12. He says: "do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: Fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!" (Luke 12:4-5). The worst people can do to us is kill us, yet ultimately God alone has power over life and death. He can cast into hell, and he has the power to sustain us (verses 6-7), if we belong to Jesus then this power is working for us. Fearing man instead of God, when seen in this light, is foolish and groundless. Therefore, if we want to escape the enslaving fear of people, we need to develop a healthy fear of God.

Therefore, when the fear of man begins the battle to control us, let us fix our eyes on the majesty of our God. Spend some time chewing over those passages of Scripture that help us to have a bigger picture of god. Let us not have a puny God (which is no God at all), rather let us spend time marvelling at the unparalleled majesty of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Previous Posts in This Series

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

"If the word do not dwell with power in us..."

A preacher cannot faithfully preach to others who has not first preached to himself. If we who are preachers are not feeding ourselves on the glorious truths of Scripture, then we shall be in no place to feed others. This is a conviction that John Owen held deeply, and which shaped his life and ministry. We would do well to listen to what he says:
A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savoury unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. If the word do not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us. (Works, XVI, p. 76.)
May we, who have the immense privelege and responsibility for feeding others through the preaching and teaching of God's word, not dare teach others before we have taught ourselves. May we be pressing home and applying the words of Scripture deeply to our own hearts before we do the same for others.

Tuesday Teaching: Making Known the Manifold Wisdom of God Through Prison and Prayer (Ephesians 3)

For this week's Tuesday Teaching we're going to look at John Piper's sermon from Ephesians 3:1-21 at the recent Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation in South Africa. Here we go:

Monday, 29 November 2010

"Do your utmost for the preaching of the Gospel in Ireland"

The English Puritan John Owen had a great concern that the gospel be spread and be adorned with holiness. This was a concern he held, not just for his own nation of England, but for the work of the gospel abroad also. In 1650 he returned from a trip to Ireland, where he had seen Cromwell's forces decimate the Irish. Upon his return he preached to the English parliament and pleaded with them for a different sort of warfare. This is what he said:
How is it that Jesus Christ is in Ireland only as a lion staining all his garments with the blood of his enemies; and none to hold him out as a Lamb sprinkled with his own blood to his friends? ... Is this to deal fairly with the Lord Jesus?—call him out to do battle and then keep away his crown? God hath been faithful in doing great things for you; be faithful in this one—do your utmost for the preaching of the Gospel in Ireland.

Quote: Only One Life

Only one life,
' twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Hymn: How Firm A Foundation

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Sweating Over the Text

The fact that the only way we can understand Scripture is if God gives us understanding, does not mean that we do not have to study hard to understand the Bible. The two go together. Paul tells Timothy to "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." (2 Timothy 2:7). We do need to be those who sweat over the text, dilligently wrestling with it until it gives up its blessing. Yet at the same time we must be doing so in complete dependance of God, who alone can give us understanding. Don Carson has these helpful words to say on the importance of dilligent study of the Bible, and the danger of neglecting it:
Careful handling of the Bible will enable us to "hear" it a little better. It is all too easy to read the traditional interpretations we have received from others into the text of Scripture. Then we may unwittingly transfer the authority of Scripture to our traditional interpretations and invest them with a false, even an idolatrous degree of certainty. Because traditions are reshaped as they are passed on, after a while we may drift far from God's word while still insisting our theological opinions are "biblical" and therefore true. If when we are in such a state we study the Bible uncritically, more than likely it will simply reinforce our errors. If the Bible is to accomplish its work of continual reformation - reformation of our lives and doctrine - we must do all we can to listen to it afresh and to utilize the best resources at our disposal.
D. A. Carson, from the introduction to "Exegetical Fallacies".

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Two Things

The more aware we are of two things the more we will grow as Christians. The more we think over two things the more our prayers shall flow easily. What are these two things? Listen to what Charles Simeon has to say:
By constantly meditating on the goodness of God and on our great deliverance from that punishment which our sins have deserved, we are brought to feel our vileness and utter unworthiness; and while we continue in this spirit of self-degradation, everything else will go on easily. We shall find ourselves advancing in our course; we shall feel the presence of God; we shall experience His love; we shall live in the enjoyment of His favour and in the hope of His glory. . . . You often feel that your prayers scarcely reach the ceiling; but, oh, get into this humble spirit by considering how good the Lord is, and how evil you all are, and then prayer will mount on wings of faith to heaven. The sigh, the groan of a broken heart, will soon go through the ceiling up to heaven, aye, into the very bosom of God.
We must never lose sight of two things: our sinfulness and God's grace towards us in Christ. We must never 'move on' from these things. Let us make it our daily habit to spend time letting these truths sink in deeply and greatly affect us.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Tuesday Teaching: Dr. Don Part 5

This is the 5th and final sermon by Dr. Don Carson looking at Matthew 27 and the 'Ironies of the Cross'. If 'save the best till last' was ever true it's today. Enjoy!

Monday, 22 November 2010

"Let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other"


True Christianity can be summed up as 'Jesus only, Jesus always'. Why is this? This is because Christ alone is all-sufficient. If we have Him we have everything. If we are in Christ, then God has blessed us with "every spiritual blessing" (Ephesians 1:3). If we have Christ we need not look anywhere else for anything, all we need for all eternity is found in Him. We dishonour Him as the all-sufficient Saviour if we are looking for satisfaction anywhere else other than Him, if we are putting our trust for anything anywhere else. Here's what the reformer John Calvin has to say:
We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is of him. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects, that he might learn to feel our pain. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.
John Calvin, Institutes, 2.16.19.

Why the Church should be more like a Gay Bar: Part 2

Following Friday's post...Below is a short interview with Alex Earley the pastor who planted a church in a "gay friendly rock and roll bar". Enjoy!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Hymn: A Mighty Fortress is Our God


A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

By Martin Luther

Friday, 19 November 2010

Why the Church should be more like a Gay Bar

In his book 'Church Planter', Darrin Patrick gives the example of a pastor who couldn't find a venue for his church to meet.
One day he saw that the local Gay Bar was advertising for bar staff, so he applied and got the job. Over a period of time the owner (an atheist lesbian) began to ask him about his faith and his plans to plant a church and by God's grace she offered him the use of the bar on Sundays to hold services, and they have been there ever since!

The reason why I think this story should resonate with us is because the church and the Gay community are (in some ways) quite similar.
For most homosexuals, the gay community is a refuge, a safe haven from the bitterness and rejection of society, parents and peers... it is a place where you don't need to pretend to be someone you're not. This means that being gay is not just about sexual preference, it's about being accepted for who you are in a community where love and affirmation are supposed to eclipse fear and rejection.

But does it work?
Reality tells us that the answer must be, 'No'.

Acceptance within the gay community is not unconditional, entrance is granted on the basis of 'coming out', which often means breaking any relationships that would hinder being 'out and proud'... including marriage. This is not only painful for the person but also for those who love them.

Hollywood portrays homosexual relationships as long lasting and monogamous, but reality is far different. Promiscuity, violence and suicide ravage the gay community with the result that people again feel the rejection and pain they once tried to flee from.
(If you think this is a caricature, Tom Schmidt in his book 'Straight and Narrow' offers some startling statistics from a range of non-Christian sociologists on the topic.)

Why should the Church be more like a Gay bar?

Homosexuals feel an acute sense of different-ness which means that who they are is not fully realised without reference to the gay community.
Similarly, 1 Peter 1 tells us that the Church is a gathering of aliens and strangers, people who feel a disconnection with the world around them. This is because they have been made members of a new community in Christ.

The church can offer a love and acceptance which transcends that of the gay community because it is not based on sexual preference but on Christ's finished work on the cross.
This is the radical message of the Gospel; that Christ comes and eats with tax collectors and sinners and then dies to give them a new life in him. Am I saying the church can cure homosexuals? No, God can, but even if he doesn't, the life we live by faith in Jesus is more free and flooded with more love than the gay lobby could ever dream of offering.

If this were fully realised in our churches, homosexual Christians would not sit in our pews scared of coming forward for support and counsel for fear of rejection. Instead we would comfort the sexually broken with the arms of the gospel and help homosexuals to grasp what it means to be godly men and women in Christ.
If this were true of our congregations non-Christian homosexuals who look at us and say "see how they love one another" because they would see that affirmation is not on the basis of sexuality but on being an image bearer of God, made alive in Christ, loved and accepted by their heavenly father.

Does this mean that the Church should sweep the Bible's teaching on homosexuality under the carpet? No of course not, God's design for sex and marriage is clear and homosexuality does not fit that paradigm.
However the Bible's teaching on sexuality is only one part of our identity as human beings and we must not succumb to the wisdom of the age which defines people primarily by their sexual preference. If we do we reduce ourselves to mere parts and functions.
Rather the identity of the Christian is 'in Christ', united to him and to other believers. This non-transient fact gives more security, affirmation, love and acceptance than any other relationship homosexual or heterosexual.

So why should the church be more like a gay bar?
Because the Church is a community of misfits who have been made alive by the death and resurrection of Jesus and as a result feel out of place in the world. Therefore we are able to empathise and reach out to others who also experience that acute sense of different-ness. However the Gay Bar can only dream of offering that which Christ offers. It’s cheap counterfeits of identity, love and community don't last and don't satisfy but in Christ they are a fully realised part of the transformed Christian life.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Putting the Bible in the Driving Seat

What is expository preaching and why should we bother with it? The following video is a 15 minute introduction to expository preaching from David Jackman, former president of the Proclamation Trust. This is both a great introduction for those starting out in a preaching ministry, and an excellent refresher for seasoned preachers. It is a great spur to us to put the Bible in the driving seat of our ministries, and helps us to think through what this will look like.


Untitled from The Proclamation Trust on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Article: Singleness with Purpose

Over at the Gospel Coalition blog Brooks Waldron has written an excellent little article on singleness, focussing especially on the purpose of singleness. It is a great supplement to our current series on battles singles face (part three is coming soon - apologies for the delay!). This is well worth taking the time to read whether you're single or married. It will greatly help us in our thinking about how the single person can magnify Christ in a way that married people cannot, and is a great spur to live out Christ-exalting single lives. Here's how Brooks starts off:
How many times have you heard someone say, “He’s such a great guy, how is he still single?” Or, “She’s such a catch. When will she get married off?” The implication behind such questions is that great men and women get married, and those who are not great do not. For many, being single imprints upon them a meaning that touches their very identities: They are defective, second-rate, somehow less than others who marry. In response to this message, Scripture teaches that single Christians are not defined by their singleness, but by their union with Jesus Christ. Singleness, like marriage, is a God-given calling, not an identity. The calling of singleness does not stamp upon the single person an identity any different from a married person. It does, however, imprint a meaning. That meaning communicates a message not about the single person, though, but about God himself. Uncovering the meaning that God ascribes to singleness, singles will experience greater joy in their calling, and those who minister to them will be better prepared to encourage them to live that calling out.
You can read the whole article by clicking here.

Memorising Scripture with Songs

One of the best ways to saturate ourselves, our thoughts and lives with the Bible is to memorise it. Memory verses are not just for children in Sunday school, it is something that all of us ought to be doing throughout our Christian lives.

A great way to memorise Scripture is through song, just think how easy we find it to the words of a hymn. Recently I came across this video which has put a Bible verse to song, I don't know anything about the group that produced it, but it's quite catchy and makes a great resource for memorising Scripture, especially in a family context. If you've not started memorising Scripture for yourself or as a family why not start here?

Quote: Rutherford on Christian Ministry

Here's what the Scottish Puritan Samuel Rutherford had to say about the nature of Christian ministry:
Suffering is the other half of our ministry, howbeit the hardest.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Tuesday Teaching: Dr. Don Part 4

In this fourth session Don Carson looks at 'doubting' Thomas from John 20... enjoy!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Grafted into Christ

William Tyndale gave his life to translationg the Bible from the original languages into English for the very first time, and it cost him his life. He was made an exile from his own country for doing so and eventually captured, strangled and burned at the stake for doing so.

One of the things that drove Tyndale to risk everything for the translation of the Bible into the ordinary language of the people was the recognition that if the Bible is locked away from people then the gospel is locked away from people. He knew that our only hope is found in the gospel of God's grace.

Tyndale had the rock-solid conviction that we are utterly helpless apart from the sovereign grace of God revealed in the gospel. We are in bondage to sin, blind, dead, damned, and helpless. We are utterly helpless and unable to do anything for ourselves apart from the grace of God, shown towards us in Christ, and revealed in the gospel, which we can only access to through Scripture.

Listen to how Tyndale describes conversion and how it shows both our utter helplessness and God's all powerful sovereign grace in Christ:
By grace . . . we are plucked out of Adam the ground of all evil and graffed [grafted] in Christ, the root of all goodness. In Christ God loved us, his elect and chosen, before the world began and reserved us unto the knowledge of his Son and of his holy gospel: and when the gospel is preached to us openeth our hearts and giveth us grace to believe, and putteth the spirit of Christ in us: and we know him as our Father most merciful, and consent to the law and love it inwardly in our heart and desire to fulfill it and sorrow because we do not.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Hymn: Arise, My Soul, Arise

Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Don't let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

by Charles Wesley

Friday, 12 November 2010

Pray for Our Brothers and Sisters in Iraq

If you've been following the news over the last couple of weeks you will know that there have been some extremely violent attacks on Christians in Iraq from muslim groups. Many have been killed and many others injured. This violence is set to continue, The muslim group Al-Quaeda have announced that Christians everywhere are "legitimate targets". Many Christians are unsure what to do, whether they should stay or go.

Please join us in praying for our brothers and sisters in Iraq. We shouldn't be suprised at such violence against Christians, Jesus promised that His people would face opposition and persecution from the world around them. In God's soverign purposes it is often when the church is most viciously persecuted that the gospel spreads the most (Acts 8:1-8).

Please pray that our brothers and sisters would continue to stand firm and not be ashamed of belonging to Jesus, even if this means death; that by the way they endure such suffering they would testify that Jesus is more precious than life itself. Pray that this terrible violence might serve to advance the gospel like never before in Iraq. Also pray that the Iraqi Christians would have great wisdom when to stay and when to go.

Here are a few links giving more details on what has been happening in Iraq to help you pray more informedly: